Would you . . . Easter scripture, questions and reflections

Luke 23:32-34: The Crucifixion

. . . 32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull,[e] they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”[f] And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.[g]

Question A: Would you have been in the crowd?

When work is caught up and a few minutes are left to keep busy, once and a while I will pull out this little book with 1,001 questions to stimulate conversation.

One of the questions this week was: “If you could go back and witness any event in history, what would it have been. The students started listing a few, but I had to fine-tune it a bit—how about a significant world event.

The question hit me that would I want to have seen Jesus on the cross dying. Would I have been in the crowd for the crucifixion? My first reaction was I certainly hope I would not have been there, but then I thought a bit differently.

Consider whether or not you rush to watch something in person or whether you can just hear about it or whether you do not even need to know the details. Just what kind of person would you be?

Would I have been in the crowd? Probably, and I am not proud of my reasoning.

Luke 23:44-49: The Death of Jesus

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”[h] And with those words he breathed his last.

47 When the Roman officer[i] overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.[j]48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.[k] 49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

Question B: Would you have waited to see him die?

Studying a globe, the latitude for Jerusalem is about 31.80 N and the latitude for Kansas City is 39.10 N. The climate is warmer and it sets off the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern edge.

The difference in the climate would make it likely that viewing a crucifixion would be comfortable, and it was Passover so everybody would have been out at the festival and along the streets. Likely, nobody was staying home or thinking about what had to be done for Sabbath in a day or two.

Sadly, the crucifixion was considered a spectator sport, too. The Roman government may have planned a series of crucifixions simply to entertain all the visiting Jewish people.

All of those factors would affect whether or not one could answer the question of staying until Jesus’ last breath or they took him off the cross. Leaving the body up was the usual procedure.

My answer: I probably would have walked away bored—another unflattering admission.

Luke 23:50-53: The Burial of Jesus

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock.

Question C: Would you have taken Jesus’ body down?

The clock was ticking and Sabbath law said all work had to be done before sundown. Passover was a huge holiday, and there were so many chores to do before nothing else could be done to have the perfect holy holiday.

There are two personality types—often referred to as Mary and Martha based on the New Testament story Jesus used to explain that it was okay to give up the tasks of hospitality to learn at the Masters’ feet. Martha was more worried about getting everything ready and Mary was unmoved from her spot listening to Jesus.

Answering this question has be reflect how well you know yourself. But also, you have to wonder just how positive you would have felt about the identity of Jesus. The Gospel of John states that this man was Joseph of Arimathea who was joined by Nicodemus, the same man who visited Jesus in the night just to interview him first-handed.

These two men risked their personal and professional reputations by requesting permission to take Jesus’ body and to bury it. That takes guts! (And there really is no other way to say it.)

Sadly, my answer would place me as a Martha frantically getting ready for the holiday meal, especially since I could do nothing the next day.

Luke 23:54-56:

. . . 54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation,[l] as the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

Question D: Would you have simply followed Jewish law?

The government was Roman; the religious laws were Jewish. The Roman government bent to the political pressure exerted by the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Agreeing to try Jesus for a questionable charge, kept the Jewish leaders appeased. The crucifixion was a political way of keeping positive relations between the foreign government and the local residents.

Jesus’ followers kept growing. Social changes were happening, and Jewish people were fighting among themselves. The Roman officials knew the risks. This movement was only three years old, and in the ancient culture that was such a short time it was not a major concern.

Jewish Christians had to battle a crisis of which law was God’s law. Was the Jewish law about honoring Sabbath more important, more lasting than breaking the law and taking care of Jesus’ burial?

Change does not come easily. Answering that question today seems so obvious—break Jewish law and take care of Jesus’ body. But change was too risky yet so that meant keeping the law and being safe.

Luke 24:1-5: The Resurrection

1But very early on Sunday morning[m] the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?

Question E: Would you have gone to the tomb?

Passover Festival was over. Sabbath was over; and even the crucifixion was over. Sunday morning the sun came up just like it always does. There are hundreds of chores to do just to clean up the mess left from a week of festivities and visitors.

No one has any time to attend to a buried body. Now the message seems to have died, too. Or has it.

The closest women disciples did not forget. They bundled up the ointments, oils, perfumes, and clothes needed to finish a proper burial and went to the tomb.

No reason to run or to hurry. The body was not going anywhere and this was not going to be a pleasant chore. The walk was quiet; there was no reason to be joyful and they were exhausted.

Would I have walked along the path to the tomb? Today, I would have to say no since I know how tired I am after a huge holiday affair. I would want to clean up the mess at home before I did anything else.

Jesus? He died and nothing appears to have changed for the Jewish people even if his message made me feel good.

Luke 24:25-27: The Walk to Emmaus

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Question F: Would you have believed—then or now?

Of course, you say. You believe. But would you have been a believer who was in Jerusalem for Passover, who witnessed the crucifixion, who walked away and observed Sabbath, and then even visited the empty tomb?

Today, the story is captured in print, it has been translated and evaluated word by word.   Scientists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and theologians have provided evidence repeatedly that supports the written word. All this makes the question easier to answer: Do you believe?

Today’s worldwide community has instant communication in visible, in audio and even in print format. Every language can be translated by a few clicks on the computer. Why is it so hard to answer that question?

Would I have believed in the ancient days when Jesus and I lived in real time together? I think so. And as I continued living, I think I would have become even a stronger believer.

But, I also have a few doubts. During the Cold War, I asked myself how strong my faith was. I wondered if I could keep my faith during an interrogation.

Today, my experience leads me to say, “Yes, I believe. I have experienced God’s grace. I have witnessed his miracles. I have received his forgiveness. I know the is life eternal.”

given on Sunday, April 5, 2015

Luke 24:28-34:

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat,[p] he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.[q]

My answer: Yes, I believe in the mystery of faith. Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

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